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Shapiro initiates arts review in response to students' request

Prompted in part by student concern over the availability of theater spaces and financial resources for the performing arts on campus, President Shapiro has initiated a comprehensive review of the arts at Princeton.

Fifteen years ago, President emeritus William Bowen GS '58 devoted his annual report to examining the arts at the University. Recently, the construction of the Frist Campus Center and the planned addition to McCarter Theater has spurred a reevaluation of the performing art facilities on campus, Shapiro said.

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"I'm very pleased with the state of the arts at Princeton. The vitality is just terrific," he said. "But there's always progress to be made."

Associate Provost Georgia Nugent '73 said the arts review will be conducted by a team from outside the University and will include someone involved in regional theater and someone from an institution similar to Princeton.

"The review will be less directed towards compiling a specific report along the lines of President Bowen's report in 1985," Nugent said.

"It will be more geared towards policy change," she said, but noted that the project is still in the planning stages.

The provost's office will present the group of reviewers — which Shapiro said he anticipates will be chosen in the next couple of weeks — with a list of questions regarding how the University can best use its resources for the arts, Nugent said.

She added that the review team would talk to different members of the University arts community, such as faculty in the Program in Theater and Dance and the music department, staff at the University concert office and student performers.

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The Performing Arts Council, a newly-formed group of representatives from student performing arts organizations, articulated many concerns about the state of arts at Princeton in a letter sent two weeks ago to the board of trustees.

Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne said the group played a role in prompting an evaluation of the arts on campus. "Any time you have a very cogent argument, that will make people evaluate things and take them seriously," he said.

PAC's letter highlighted the lack of adequate performance space on campus and the need for increased funding for student arts groups. The letter also expressed a desire for the University to extend its academic resources to include students not involved in the Program in Theater and Dance.

"The program should extend its borders to the campus as a whole and offer workshops in areas of technical theater, acting and dancing to all students on a more informal, less academic, level," the letter said.

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PAC also highlighted the value of facilitating connections with University alumni and the importance of recruiting students interested in the arts.

Adam Friedman '00, one of the founders of PAC, emphasized the power of the group as a mix of voices representing 10 theater and dance groups on campus.

"The administration has been very receptive to [PAC] since [the administration] recognizes the value of collective bargaining," Friedman said. Dunne said PAC helps the administration because its members are willing to make concessions and realize when expectations are unrealistic. As a result, the group's proposals come across more forcefully, he added.

With inspiration from two now-defunct collaborative arts groups founded in 1975 and 1984, Friedman and Katie Oman '00 started PAC in January 1999 to facilitate communication between campus performing arts groups and to make the administration aware of students' concerns. Many of the group's original questions centered on how space in the Frist center and the Berlind Theater — McCarter's addition — would be used.

Soon after its founding, PAC began a dialogue with Vice President and Secretary Thomas Wright '62, after writing him an abbreviated version of the letter they have now presented to the trustees.

Dunne has continued communicating with PAC, which meets biweekly. While no faculty or administrators regularly attend the meetings, Dunne said PAC members often speak with him the week after the group has convened.

The USG is almost always represented at PAC's meetings, Friedman said, adding that former USG president Spencer Merriweather '00 first urged the group to write directly to the Board of Trustees.

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